The first week of February is Eating Disorder Awareness Week across the country, with a focus on educating the public about disorders.
Westwind Counselling and Eating Disorder Recovery Centre, located in Kelowna, B.C., is one of many eating disorder groups across the country raising awareness and shedding a light on the impact of eating disorders.
One of the therapists at the centre is Justine Rickard. She was inspired to help others after recovering from her own eating disorder.
“Consistently through my life early on you can see how culture sort of influenced my views on body and food, how that can impact a lot of people,” said Rickard.
Read more: Eating disorder hospitalizations among Canadian youth rose during COVID-19 pandemic: data
Throughout high school, Rickard battled an eating disorder. When she was in grade 12 she noticed just how advanced her disorder had become.
“Mine started with dieting and that led pretty quickly into restriction, more restriction restraint and within a couple of months, bingeing and purging as well,” Rickard said.
A few years later Rickard sought treatment and ended up getting care at Westwind Recovery Centre. She says it’s not often that people look for care as quickly as she did.
“It takes a while for people to reach out for support because a huge problem with the way eating disorders are misunderstood in society is that, a lot of eating disorder behaviours are actually praised and supported,” said Rickard.
“We’re given this one stereotype image of what is an eating disorder which is the stereotypical thin, young, white, middle-upper class woman. But what we know is eating disorders don’t discriminate.”
The recovery centre offers services both to people in the Okanagan and online, helping anyone who may reach out for help.
“We work on highlighting food relationships and working on building healthier food relationships with clients. This can look like challenging food roles, nutrition rehabilitation but number one is building a relationship with the clients,” said registered dietician Rhea Lewandowski.
The theme for this year’s awareness week is transforming the narrative from asks to action. Lewandowski says they will be exploring how they can change the way the public looks at eating disorders.
“We want to advocate for more change, I think it starts with that further understanding and that awareness of who eating disorders affect. Advocating for systematic change. We need more public healthcare, we need more education on what eating disorders are and what they affect. We need more education and research on treatment,” Lewandowski said.
The centre encourages anyone looking for more information on disorders or supports to visit their website, or reach out to someone they trust.